Much earlier this year RacingAroundJersey.com predicted that NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Marcos Ambrose would leave the sport at the end of the 2014 season to return to his homeland, Australia. All the clues were there when Richard Petty Motorsports CEO Brian Moffitt speculated that Ambrose may be contemplating the move when addressing the teams future during a discussion about the sponsorship signing with Smithfield Foods. Why would an executive with the company allow anyone to even speculate about the move if he didn't already know it was a strong possibility?
Fast forward to September, and with the announcement making what we had speculated a reality, it is time to look at the clues to see just who will replace Ambrose in the number 9 Ford.
Many of those clues point to New Jersey native Ryan Truex.
First thing to be considered is that Ryan is already on the Richard Petty Motorsports payroll. He was signed to a driver developmental deal in June of last year along with Corey Lajoie. The plan was to secure sponsorship for both, and then decide where they would race, either in the Nationwide Series, or the Camping World Truck Series.
That sponsorship never materialized for either driver, and when Dakoda Armstrong brought money he got the number 43 ride in the Nationwide Series for RPM. Truex was given permission to drive the number 83 Burger King car for BK Racing, while Lajoie has spent much of the season on the sidelines.
The next series of events which may be a clue to Truex getting the number 9 ride came this past weekend at New Hampshire International Speedway. After arriving at the track the announcement was made by BK Racing that he would be replaced in the number 83 by Travis Kvapil.
Dave Moody, a MRN announcer posted on his blog he had been told the reason Truex was replaced was due to the unhappiness with the level of feedback received from Truex.
Meanwhile, Motorsports.com writer Nick DeGroot tweeted Truex's absence was due to BK Racing owing him a great deal of money. There could be some truth to this based on the fact that in March of 2013 Landon Cassill sued BK Racing for $205,000 he said he was owed in unpaid winnings and fees. The case was settled outside of court.
Even if either scenario is true the timing seems particularly odd. Did the team suddenly realize the reason they have struggled all year is due to a lack of feedback from Truex? Did Truex just realize the team owed him a lot of money after he already made the trip to New Hampshire?
The true answer may be Truex has actually been offered the RPM number 9 ride if he can secure sponsorship, and running in 35th place every week for a team that may, or may not, be paying you would do nothing but hurt his possibility of impressing a potential sponsor.
Rather than add horrible finishes he, and those around him, may choose to highlight his accomplishments, and spend his time knocking on doors rather than knocking down walls with poor handling cars.
Those accomplishments include winning the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in back-to-back years, 2009 and 2010. He was also named the series' Rookie of the Year in 2009, making him one of only two drivers in NASCAR history to earn that title, and win the championship in the same year.
His 5 wins, 15 top-5's, and 17 top-10's in those two years led NASCAR to name him as one of the "Top Drivers of the First 25 Years of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East." The youngest driver to make the list.
He also captured the pole, and nearly won a Nationwide race at Dover International Speedway, while driving for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2012, finishing second to teammate Joey Logano.
Unfortunately, Truex was unable to turn that run into any sponsorship dollars to continue with JGR.
Sponsorship will be the key again if Truex hopes to secure the number 9. There are a number of other candidates who would certainly like to fill Ambrose's seat, who all have positives and negatives in their corners.
Sam Hornish Jr. was thought to be the leading candidate when Ambrose first made his announcement. However, recent speculation about the former Indy Car champion not wanting to race full-time, along with his age, 35, and his own problems with sponsorship, may put him behind Truex in line.
David Ragan is a favorite with Ford officials, not only for his two Sprint Cup wins, but because he also owns a Ford dealership. He is only 28 years old, but he two has been unable to find funding after losing UPS a few years ago.
Elliott Sadler has made no secret of wanting to return to Sprint Cup, and would likely get the ride if he could bring sponsor One Main Financial with him. However, his sponsor may choose to stay with JGR, and Elliott may not feel the number 9 is a quality enough ride to show his talent at the highest level.
The more you look at the clues, and the other candidates, Ryan Truex would seem to be the likely choice. A 22 year old driver with a year of experience in Sprint Cup, who has proven he knows how to win both races, and championships. All he needs to do is find a sponsor. Something that could be a lot easier with a team that has a car in the Chase, Aric Almirola, versus one that struggles to qualify every week.
RacingJunk.com Giving Away a New Chevy Pickup
RacingJunk.com bills itself as the "World's #1 Motorsports Marketplace" and after checking out their site we at RacingAroundJersey.com cannot argue. They have everything from complete ready-to-race cars, right down to the smallest of parts you might need for your race machine.
Even if you don't own a race car, or are not in the market for one, the site is great for browsing even if you are just a race fan. Who knows you might see a car from your local track for sale, and get the racing bud after all.
RacingJunk.com is also running a contest where you can win a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 4x4, and a trip to SEMA 2014.
To enter just go to the RacnigJunk.com Contest. Good luck!